Rick Rood’s learned and well organized article on Hinduism is an excellent attempt at giving an idea of the basic features of the religion to non-Hindus.
I am a nominal Hindu with a great deal of Christian influence. I find a few inaccuracies when he talks of the religion under, “A Christian Response”. I appreciate that Hinduism is too vast a religion to be grasped accurately in all its aspects by any one man. However the perception that the Hindus’ concept of God’s grace could be a Christian influence and related comments are inaccurate. Most of the rituals, Pujas that the Hindus perform are to seek God’s grace and deliverance, apart from asking for material favors! Further the concept of performing “Prayaschitta” or atonement for your wrong-doing and asking for forgiveness is very much a part of Hinduism that came from ancient times. Of course, there is also the concept of the one who is wronged giving a “shaapa” (curse) to the wrong doer.
While there are a lot of differences between the two religions, the final destination individually and as a society appears to be the same.
And, by the way the Christians can relax. Though Hinduism is gaining popularity in the West there is no provision in Hinduis to “convert” non-Hindus! The Indian Christians are considered part of the Hindu culture and you find many Hindus like myself believing in Christ, though not in the same manner as the practicing Christians.
Thank you very much for your message regarding the article on Hinduism, and for taking the time to read the article. It is certainly not an exhaustive description of the Hindu religion and its comparison to the Christian faith. But I tried to give a brief summary.
I noted your comments with regard to the contrasts between Christianity and Hinduism mentioned in the article. I thought I would just briefly respond to your comment on “grace,” and also on “forgiveness.”
I appreciate what you said about Hindus seeking grace through religious activities. By this I take it that you mean that Hindus believe that they can obtain the help of a deity in relieving themselves of negative karma and moving toward enlightenment. I suppose that this kind of divine help or assistance could be described as “grace” in a certain broad sense (though I think you will see some important distinctions below). I appreciate also your comment about a Hindu worshiper asking for forgiveness (which I would take to be a remission of bad karma).
I wonder if you could help me, however, in understanding the way in which you are using the word “grace.” As I understand the Hindu religion, spiritual progress always requires the effort or striving of the worshiper, whether it is through action or ritual, knowledge or meditation, or devotion to a deity. In the Christian faith, spiritual discipline and works of love and service are also very important. But these spiritual activities are never considered the means of one’s attaining salvation. They really are the fruit or result of attaining salvation. Actually, this salvation is not attained, but obtained as a gift through faith in Jesus. I’m sure you are familiar with the statement in the New Testament by the Apostle Paul, “For by grace you are saved, through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as the result of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). This statement puts grace and works in totally different categories. In fact, it states that salvation is a gift, not to be achieved, but to be received through faith in Jesus. I’m interested to know if you perceive the same contrast between the Hindu way of striving (working) to make spiritual progress toward enlightenment, and the Christian way of receiving the free gift of salvation through faith in Christ. One of the most beloved statements of Jesus that highlights this contrast is as follows: “Come unto me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28)!
The reason that this free gift of salvation is tied to faith in Christ comes into clearer focus when we consider the second issue you noted in your message . . . the issue of forgiveness. In the Christian faith, when God forgives someone their sins, it means that He freely releases the person from the judgment and penalty that his sins have brought against him. This judgment or penalty for sin is defined in the Bible as “death.” “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The death referred to here is not merely physical death, but spiritual death which is eternal separation from God: “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Issiah 59:2). This judgment on sin is necessary, because the Bible says that God is a “holy” God: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil, you cannot tolerate wrong” (Habakkuk 1:13). Furthermore, the Bible says that it is impossible for us to be released from God’s judgment on sin by working our way out of it, or striving to overcome it: “No one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law” (Romans 3:20).
How, then, does Jesus come into play here? By giving his life as a sacrifice for sin, taking on himself the judgment we deserve and paying the penalty that we owe to God: “For even the Son of Man (Jesus) came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom (payment) for many” (Mark 10:45). This is why God is free to offer his forgiving grace to anyone who acknowledges his sin and need for forgiveness, and receives this gift by trusting in Jesus and what he has done for us: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). The “eternal life” referred to here includes God’s forgiving grace, but also so much more . . . a life in fellowship with God both now and forever. But apart from what Jesus has done for us, this “eternal life” could never be made available to us.
By the way, here is one additional contrast worth noting between Hinduism and Christianity. As I understand the Hindu religion, the goal of spiritual progress is ultimate union with God, a melting of all distinctions between self and ultimate reality. The essence of salvation or eternal life in the Christian scriptures is not union with ultimate reality, but communion with God . . . person to Person!
Thank you, ______, for taking time to interact with me on some very important issues. I commend you for taking seriously the spiritual journey we all are on in life. May I also commend to you a word from your own M. K. Gandhi: “I shall say to the Hindus that your lives will be incomplete unless you reverently study the teachings of Jesus.”